ESPN asks: What if Michael Vick were white?

ESPN asks: What if Michael Vick were white? (Baltimore Sun/Colby Ware)

ESPN posed a question a few hours ago that has created a storm to rival Hurricane Irene: What if Michael Vick were white?

In an essay posted just posted online that will appear in the Sept. 5 issue of the magazine, columnist Toure wrote:

"Race is an undeniable and complex element of Vick's story, both because of his style as well as the rarity of black QBs in the NFL. A decade after he became the first black QB to be drafted No. 1 overall, about one in five of the league's passers is African-American, compared with two-thirds of all players. But after his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked: Would a white football player have gotten nearly two years in prison for what Vick did to dogs?"

The story includes a picture, that some have described as "creepy" that shows what Vick would look like if he was white. News reports stated that ESPN took down the controversial photo, but this morning it was visible here -- and otherwise all over the Internet.

Toure goes on to say that he thinks Vick's race has everything to do with his football stardom, but little to do with his dogfighting conviction.

He writes of the race-switch scenario: "This question makes me cringe. It is so facile, naive, shortsighted and flawed that it is meaningless. Whiteness comes with great advantages, but it's not a get-out-of-every-crime-free card. Killing dogs is a heinous crime that disgusts and frightens many Americans. I'm certain white privilege would not be enough to rescue a white NFL star caught killing dogs."

The story has gone utterly viral. It's been out just 20 hours now, and already it's been shared thousands of times and chewed over by dozens of pundits.

Your thoughts?